NFL Playoff Scenarios: With Five Teams at 8-7, How Will the AFC Play Out?

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NFL Playoff Scenarios: With Five Teams at 8-7, How Will the AFC Play Out?
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The Denver Broncos almost pulled out the 17-point comeback in Philadelphia on Sunday. That win would have put the hammer down on the fifth seed in the AFC, but multiple chances stalled early in the fourth quarter and it eventually cost them in the end.

Baltimore also made a legit comeback against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

As of right now, you will visit the popular sites and it will still tell you that the Broncos are in. Technically, yes, but they do not control their own destiny. If the Baltimore Ravens win at Oakland next weekend they will earn one of the two spots. I am going to go through the five games in which each of the 8-7 teams play and tell you how it affects the playoffs in the AFC.

There are so many scenarios and outcomes that will come to the forefront; I will try to explain them and get them correct as best as possible.

 

Week 17 Games

1. Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

2. Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets

3. New England Patriots at Houston Texans

4. Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders

5. Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins

 

The NFL tie-breaking procedures state that the only way to eliminate a team in a tie would be if all of the teams have defeated a certain team. In this case that is not applicable, the next tiebreaker is conference record.

 

Conference Record for Each Team

Denver Broncos: 6-5

New York Jets: 6-5

Baltimore Ravens: 6-5

Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-6

Houston Texans: 5-6

 

As you can see there is still a three-way tie for the fifth seed, so the next tiebreaker rule must be used. The next tiebreaker is best win-loss percentage in common games; a minimum of four must be common.

This season four games were not common, so the next tiebreaker must be used to break a tie between Denver, New York, and Baltimore. The next tiebreaker is strength of victory.

 

Strength of Victory Rankings

Denver Broncos: (62-58)

New York Jets: (58-62)

Baltimore: (46-74)

 

Currently the Denver Broncos are the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs.

If each team wins their respective games next week the standings will look like this:

New York Jets: (68-68)

Denver Broncos: (65-71)

Baltimore Ravens: (51-85)

 

Therefore, if all three win next week, the New York Jets will receive the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs.

After the Denver Broncos are awarded the fifth seed, the tie-breaking procedure starts all over again.

 

Conference Record for Each Team

New York Jets: 6-5

Baltimore Ravens: 6-5

Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-6

Houston Texans: 5-6

 

Another tie between the Ravens and Jets would send the tiebreaker to common opponents. The New York Jets would win the tiebreaker because they have played four common games.

This would currently give the New York Jets the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.

 

What Would Happen If?

Denver beats Kansas City

New York Jets beats Cincinnati

Baltimore beats Oakland

Pittsburgh beats Miami

Houston beats New England

 

Based on the exact scenario previously noted—Denver, Baltimore, and New York would all be tied at 7-5 within the division. Now there would be a fourth common opponent with Baltimore playing Oakland and Cincinnati playing the New York Jets. This would put the first tiebreak as follows:

New York Jets (3-2) vs. NE, OAK, CIN, IND

Denver Broncos (2-3) vs. NE, OAK, CIN, IND

Baltimore Ravens (1-4) vs. NE, OAK, CIN, IND

 

Therefore the No. 5 seed in the AFC would be awarded to the New York Jets.

That would leave Denver and Baltimore to battle for the sixth seed with their conference records at 7-5. The advantage goes to Baltimore based on the first tiebreaker, head-to-head games. Baltimore defeated Denver 30-7 earlier in the season so the No. 6 seed in the AFC would be awarded to the Baltimore Ravens

Any 9-7 tie between NYJ, BAL, and DEN would leave the Broncos the odd team out based on the above information.

Therefore, after Week 16 it may look like the Denver Broncos are in the fifth seed but they are actually the seventh and out of the playoffs.

 

What Would Happen If?

Denver WINS

Baltimore LOSES

New York Jets WIN

Houston WINS

Pittsburgh WINS

 

That would leave four teams at 9-7 to battle for the two playoff spots. Based on the common-opponents angle played out in the last scenario, the New York Jets would have the advantage over Denverbased on a one-game advantage against IND, OAK, CIN, and NE.

Therefore the New York Jets would be awarded the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.

That would leave Denver, Pittsburgh, and Houston all at 9-7 vying for the remaining spot. Denver cannot win a head-to-head tiebreaker with Pittsburgh. Therefore, if Pittsburgh wins, Denver needs Houston to win also. This would change the tiebreaker to conference record, giving the Broncos the one-game advantage and the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.

 

What Would Happen If?

Denver WINS

New York LOSES

Baltimore WINS

Pittsburgh WINS

Houston WINS

 

Based on the head-to-head games between Baltimore and Denver, Baltimore would have the advantage over Denver with them both being the two teams with 7-5 conference records.

Therefore Baltimore Ravens would be awarded the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.

This is the exact same scenario played out for the sixth seed as in the previous section, so the Denver Broncos would be awarded the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.

 

What Would Happen If?

Denver WINS

Baltimore LOSES

New York Jets LOSE

Pittsburgh WINS

Houston WINS

 

Based on conference record, the advantage would go to the Denver Broncos, so they would be awarded the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.

Houston and Pittsburgh would finish tied in conference record without a head-to-head matchup and would therefore be forced into the common opponents tiebreaker.

Houston Texans: 4-1 against MIA, TEN, OAK, CIN

Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-3 against MIA, TEN, OAK, CIN

 

The Houston Texans would be awarded the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.

 

What Would Happen If?

Denver WINS

Baltimore WINS

New York LOSES

Pittsburgh LOSES

Houston WINS

 

Based on head-to-head and conference record, Baltimore would be awarded the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.

Based on conference record without a head-to-head matchup, Denver would have the advantage over Houston. Therefore the Denver Broncos would be awarded the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.

 

What Would Happen If?

Denver LOSES

Baltimore WINS

New York WINS

Pittsburgh WINS

Houston WINS or LOSES

 

Based on record among common opponents after the conference record tiebreaker, New York would be given the edge over Baltimore and would be awarded the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.

The only divisional tiebreaker that could come into play between teams involves Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The NFL has a separate order of tiebreaker rules for divisional foes when it comes to wild-card seeding.

Therefore the division would come down to the record against divisional opponents. Both were swept by Cincinnati and split against each other. Pittsburgh lost to Cleveland two weeks back, giving the advantage to Baltimore by one game so they would be awarded the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.

 

The Bottom Line for Your Team

 

Denver Broncos

This is what you need to see happen in the 1:00 PM EST games on Sunday for you to have a realistic shot going into your home game:

The Houston Texans need to defeat the New England Patriots, which could definitely happen if the Patriots decide to rest their starters.

You would also like to see the Miami Dolphins defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, if Pittsburgh does win you are still alive. At 4:00 PM EST, you will need to win your game against the Kansas City Chiefs and hope your hated Raiders can upset the Ravens.

If Pittsburgh and Houston have both won, you will still be alive going into the night game in New York. If Houston has lost and Baltimore has won, it's all over.

 

Denver Can Get into the Playoffs With:

Denver Win + Houston Win + Baltimore Loss (No. 6 seed)

Denver Win + Houston Win + New York Loss (No. 6 seed)

Any scenario in which three of the 8-7 teams lose and they win.

 

Baltimore Ravens

It's pretty simple Ravens fans, win and you are in. If you lose, you have the advantage in many of the 8-8 tiebreakers based on conference record, but the chances of that happening are very unlikely.

 

Baltimore Can Get into the Playoffs With:

Baltimore Win (No. 5 or No. 6 depending on New York)

 

New York Jets

What a relief in New York. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that New York wouldn't have a playoff team? If the Jets defeat Cincinnati on Sunday night New Yorkers will be dancing in the streets based on all of the advantages you hold with division record and common opponent tiebreakers.

 

New York Can Get into the Playoffs With:

New York Win (No. 5 seed most likely)

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

All you had to do was beat the Cleveland Browns and you didn't. Now you need a ton of help. It's too bad, because the Steelers have a very good team and have underachieved all season. A Houston loss in the early set will give them some hope, but you have to beat the Dolphins first.

 

Pittsburgh Can Get into the Playoffs With:

Pittsburgh Win + New York Jets Loss + Houston Loss

Any of the three 8-7 teams lose and you win

 

Houston Texans

It wouldn't have crossed my mind that you Texans fans would be dreaming of postseason football, but I am rooting for head coach Gary Kubiak. You need to hope that it comes down to a head-to-head tiebreaker between you and Pittsburgh. In any of those situations, the Texans will get in based on the common-opponent tiebreaker.

In other words, if two of three teams with a 6-5 conference record lose and Houston wins, it's party time.

 

Houston Can Get into the Playoffs With:

Houston Win + Baltimore Loss + New York Jets Loss

Houston Win + New York Jets Loss + Denver Loss

Houston Win + Denver Loss + Baltimore Loss

 

Obviously, there will be a hundred other possible scenarios if an 8-8 team makes the playoffs. If that's how it happens, none of the five deserve to play in the wild card round.

New York and Baltimore are the front runners at this point, but crazier things have happened in Week 17. Ask the 2007 Denver Broncos who lost to a bad San Francisco team at home or the 2003 Minnesota Vikings who traveled down to Tempe, Arizona and lost a win-and-your-in game in Week 17.

It seems to happen every couple years. A team that looks like they play a cupcake in the last week will let them hang around the entire game, and the cupcake will pull it out in the last few minutes.

Oakland has the talent to beat the Ravens. Just look at Baltimore's strength of victory—it's terrible. Cincinnati could be playing for the third seed in the playoffs on Sunday night if Houston pulls this upset early in the afternoon. Denver is crossing their fingers that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have some plan to only play a quarter. They might not care if they get the fourth seed because they might not want to play Peyton Manning until the AFC championship.

There is no telling what will happen next weekend. No matter the outcomes, we can all count on a lot of drama beginning with the early games on Sunday afternoon. Have fun AFC football fans, because it's not very often five teams have legitimate playoff hopes in the final weekend of the season.

 

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